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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • compound-specific isotope analysis;
  • stable isotope;
  • acid scavenger;
  • nerve agent;
  • sarin;
  • triethylamine;
  • N,N-diethylaniline;
  • tributylamine

Abstract:  Acid scavengers are frequently used as stabilizer compounds in a variety of applications. When used to stabilize volatile compounds such as nerve agents, the lower volatility and higher stability of acid scavengers make them more persistent in a post-event forensic setting. Compound-specific isotope analysis of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen in three acid-scavenging compounds (N,N-diethylaniline, tributylamine, and triethylamine) were used as a tool for distinguishing between different samples. Combined analysis of multiple isotopes improved sample resolution, for instance differentiation between triethylamine samples improved from 80% based on carbon alone to 96% when combining with additional isotope data. The compound-specific methods developed here can be applied to instances where these compounds are not pure, such as when mixed with an agent or when found as a residue. Effective sample matching can be crucial for linking compounds at multiple event sites or linking a supply inventory to an event.